Andrew Reid: Founder, President & CPO of Vision Critical

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Andrew Reid is Founder, President and Chief Product Officer of Vision Critical, a customer intelligence software company.  In 2000, Andrew Reid created Vision Critical to disrupt the traditional market research landscape. By leveraging the power of social, mobile and web technologies, Andrew transformed the industry by developing secure, online communities of thousands of customers known as the Vision Critical customer intelligence platform.

Over the last 14 years, Vision Critical has grown from $1 to the $100M business it is today. What began as a start-up in Vancouver’s emerging and quickly growing tech scene has now turned into an award-winning cloud-based customer intelligence company with 16 global offices and nearly 700 employees.

How did you get into the Tech industry?

My father is a well known Canadian pollster. I grew up surrounded by public opinion research and as I got older, wanted to move away from the field by diving into advertising and digital design. That’s when I learned about the web and the fast growth of technology. Soon after, my father asked me to build a website. That’s when I knew that web, social and mobile technologies could offer a new perspective to market research. While technology had accelerated many industries already, market research had yet to be disrupted. I started Vision Critical to bring market research into the modern era through customer intelligence.

Tell us about Vision Critical. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?

Adding to the above, I knew that it was only a matter of time before market research evolved into the digital age and aligned itself with other technologies and data that the enterprise use to make decisions.

While in-person polling will never truly die, phone polling at the time was on the way out and online surveys were providing a terrible user experience. There was a huge opportunity to take what my father had started and modernize it. Not only by enabling market research to become real time, always-on and automated, but by paving the way for a new kind of industry--customer intelligence--that’s applicable to all company decision makers that need to drive more informed business outcomes by having ongoing conversations with their customers.

At the root of this opportunity was - and always will be - ensuring that actual people matter to businesses. And by that I mean not just their wallets but their opinions, preferences and interests. Today, companies want nothing more than to get at the heart of what motivates customers, because they represent a huge competitive advantage. We strive to enable brands to embrace and leverage that advantage as much as they possibly can. Driving those experiences and relationships is my vision for our company.

What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Vision Critical’s success?

Since the early days of Vision Critical we’ve had a dual model around partner and direct sales for growth. Rolling with both of those strategies has been key to our success.

From a personal standpoint, I do my best to surround myself with smart people from various industries - marketing, technology, etc. Those people tend to be curious, knowledgeable and optimistic about the future. Those relationships have developed into partnerships in many cases where they’ve helped us to execute and win deals. They also help me to stay engaged with trends that help us innovate.

What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?

The primary trend we’re capitalizing on at Vision Critical is that of the empowered customer. With widespread adoption of the internet, social and mobile technologies, customers can broadcast their opinions wider and louder than ever before. Successful business leaders know they need to put customers at the center of their business decisions by harnessing the power of their voices. We help businesses take customer excitement and focus on it and truly make it actionable.

Additionally, social technology and social CRM are interesting industry trends that we tap into already. Many people look at social CRM as the answer to the empowered customer. I believe it’s part of the answer for sure, but in isolation it’s not enough for businesses to go off of - it doesn’t offer true intelligence. 

I also keep my eye on the maker movement and the world of wearables. With the shift to a maker culture, we’re seeing customers increasingly take care of meeting their own needs (3D printing something they may have gone to Home Depot before in the past). This emerging practice can have a dramatic impact on companies’ bottom lines.

And, as wearable adoption grows, it will have a significant impact on marketers as it offers another channel through which to learn about and engage with customers. It will impact the opportunities of geolocation and short form and push messaging, as well. The rise of wearables is also really interesting from a customer behavior standpoint. They are showing brands that they want to know and learn more about themselves with the variety of health tracking gadgets and apps. That indicator will become even more valuable in the years ahead. 

Life Motto?

Feel the fear and do it anyways.

Vision Critical’s Motto?

Collective wisdom starts here.

Your greatest success as Founder of Vision Critical? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?

My greatest success and most difficult moment came at the same time. Many years ago, just after the first tech bubble, our early venture capitalists were going to shut down the company, but I offered to buy the company back from them for $1. They agreed. From that moment, there were tough years ahead where I had to self-fund the company to continue forward. But as they say, there was light at the end of the tunnel.

We overcame those hard times when we were asked to build a secure, opt-in online community for a leading sports shoe company and we had an “ah haa” moment. Communities and the insight that can be gained from them over time were the future. They provide a better experience for the participant, not just for the brand. I just had to stay with with the idea, stay curious and stay optimistic. We came out the other side with an entirely new model that we’ve seen massive success with.

Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?

Aspiring entrepreneurs must be both keenly focused and constantly flexible. It’s a real foil. I’ve had to tap into my ability to change when I’ve needed to change while also having a plan and a mission that I’m always driving towards. It takes being somewhat ambidextrous.

With the companies I advise, I also try to impart the self-awareness skill set in them. I aim to lead entrepreneurs to a place where they can make the hard decisions, as the best ones already know what they need to do deep down, but perhaps just need a nudge to do it.

Describe the ideal experience using Vision Critical.

I firmly believe that for any CEO they should have questions they want to ask their customers on a daily basis. Every single day they should be able to reach out to customers to ask questions about product, services, trends, lifestyles, the economy, etc. - the answers they receive will help them make more informed business decisions.

The ideal experience using Vision Critical then, is when the C-suite sees their Insight Community as an extension of themselves with a true seat at the boardroom table. In the companies where our platform is treated as such, we make the greatest impact.

We have one customer that, at the end of every board meeting, has members write down questions for the company’s customers. They tap into their Insight Community to get those questions answered and report feedback to the board members in just a few days. This action brings boards closer to the businesses that they oversee, versus being more removed as is often talked about as a challenge today.

How do you motivate your employees?

There are several tenets of how I motivate employees. The first is corporate culture. We’re actually working to articulate our core values and cultural beliefs that we’ve been embodying the last few years. We are also very transparent with employees about our success, challenges, goals, missteps and more. Everyone at our company knows what success means for the business and for them individually. We align those goals, company-wide, and they’re well documented.

Additionally, I motivate people by surrounding everyone with other awesome people. I’m all about hiring people with skillsets better than my own and believe that if you hiring really good people it will motivate others. We want to be playing with the varsity team and so hire varsity players to keep that spirit high.

We also have a good time, which is a huge motivator. Everyone knows they spend a significant amount of time at work. It better be exciting!

One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?

Drink: A cold Blue Moon with a orange slice.

Food: A nice juicy steak cooked over an open flame.

What literature is on your bed stand?

Right now I’m reading two books, Creativity Inc., which is the story of Pixar; and Smartcuts, a book about accelerating success in unique ways.

Role model - business and personal?

On the business side, I’d have to say my father, Angus Reid. He was a visionary sociologist who started in market research in the late 70s. He taught me to constantly worry about what’s around the corner. From him I’ve learned to quickly celebrate success and then prepare for the next failure in order to stay ahead.

On the personal side, my role model is Travis Pastrana. He’s an incredible athlete, a smart man with lots of personality and he just seems like an awesome dude. I’m very much into extreme sports, but my skill level is not up to his.

Current passion?

My current, past and future passion will always be backcountry snowmobiling. I love the extreme nature of the sport, jumping off things and such. You’re deep in the backcountry and it’s scary at times. I like to play a little with the edges of control and fear.

I also downhill mountain bike, participate in CrossFit and cook a lot. I completed a half marathon recently as well, but I officially hate running.

Favorite travel destination?

When I travel for work, New York City is a favorite spot. If it’s a personal trip, there’s nowhere like Hanalei Bay in Kauai. It is the best place to go and relax, it has a great vibe and terrific burgers.

What's next for Vision Critical?

We’re well on our way to become a $1B company. Business and organizations are jeopardizing their success if they don’t bring their customers into the decision making process. Customer-centricity is a top business priority today, and it’s here to say. Our goal is to make sure that our technology enables marketers and decision makers to better understand their customers in order to give them what they want. Fundamentally, two-way interaction is essential to every part of life. The communications style you have with a colleague or a family member or a customer - they follow a similar pattern today. Our quest is to make those two ways conversations as honest, natural and motivating across the board. That’s where the huge value is to the enterprise.